Minneapolis protesters demand justice for Jamar Clark after he was shot and killed by police. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Another police shooting of an unarmed black man — this time in Minnesota — will result in no criminal charges.
Last November, an altercation between two white police officers and Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man, ended up with Clark shot and dead. Although some video footage of the shooting is available, what exactly led up to the shooting — and, importantly, what Clark and the officers did and said — remains unclear.
Nonetheless, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said on Wednesday, March 30, that the two officers involved, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, won’t face criminal charges. Freeman released volumes of evidence, including video, to argue that the two officers reasonably believed their lives were in danger when Ringgenberg told Schwarze to open fire.
The shooting — like others before it in Chicago, Cleveland, and Ferguson, Missouri — has drawn nationwide scrutiny and local protests. Elevated by the Black Lives Matter movement, which protests racial disparities in police use of force, critics say this is just the latest example of systemic bias in the criminal justice system — a bias that allows law enforcement officers to disproportionately use deadly force on black people.
On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice was throwing snowballs and playing with a toy pellet gun in a Cleveland park when a police car rolled into the snowy field. Within two seconds of getting out of his squad car, officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed the 12-year-old. The officer has claimed he thought the pellet gun was a real firearm.
On Monday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced there will be no criminal charges filed against the officers involved. McGinty said that while there was evidence of miscommunication between a 911 dispatcher and the police officers, there was not enough evidence to suggest that the cops had cleared the very high bar for criminal charges in police shooting cases. Ultimately, a grand jury decided to file no charges, as McGinty said he recommended.
The Rice shooting has garnered widespread attention, elevated by the Black Lives Matter movement that has protested racial disparities in law enforcement’s use of force following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. With tensions already high in Cleveland, the outcome of the grand jury hearings could decide whether the situation escalates as it did in Ferguson or Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.